Like a camp aristocratic gent entering into older age, refusing to give up wearing cravats and starting every dinner with a comb of the hair and a dry martini, French restaurant L’Escargot exudes old school eclectic charm without being stuffy. It is delightful.

The long-time Soho resident moved into its current location – a grand old Georgian townhouse on Greek Street – in 1927 after initially opening just down the road in 1896 as Le Bienvenue.  This makes this suave older gent, one of the oldest – if not the oldest – French restaurant in London.

Established by French chap Georges Gaudin, L’Escargot’s claim to fame is that it was the first restaurant to serve snails in England, and once the restaurant opened at its current site, Gaudin ran a snail farm in the building’s basement.

The venue no longer runs a basement farm, but it could, because it is huge. Its measuredly maximalist interiors – a collection of intimate dining rooms that span across three levels – come draped in heavy, lush fabrics and adorned with a mish mash of high-end art.

Works by Matisse, David Hockney, Grayson Perry and Lubaina Himid are dotted around the place mixed in with snaps of celebrity diners – Princess Diana was a fan of the restaurant which has also fed the likes of Elton John, Frank Sinatra, Coco Chanel and Dame Judy Dench.

Not a surprise, the menu is a list of traditional French classics, and the restaurant’s signature snails come doused in garlic butter or as part of a mushroom and Roquefort pie.

Although olives are not really a dish, the plump Gordals that arrived as a time killer snack along with a glass of dangerously good Champagne were notably meaty and juicy.

The plate of snails myself and my pal Anna shared were delicious, made better by the pomp, faff and ceremony involved in eating them. It had far too much garlic – which is just the right amount. The thick garlicky, herbaceous green oil slick that covered the serving dish and which made its way inside the shells to pool around the fleshy little nuggets was a dream made in garlic heaven.

Anna’s medium rare round of steak Rossini was no less indulgent or rich. The tender cut of meat arrived drizzled in a rich amber brown gravy and next to crouton disc sitting on a bed of wilted spinach and topped with a cut of foie gras. It’s the type of delicious thing doctors want you to eat less of.

My pretty dish of grilled salmon and summer greens – peas, broad beans and courgette slices – sat in a green-flecked lemon-yellow chive beurre blanc, another stand out sauce which weighted down an otherwise I’m-on-a-diet-light dish with a deliberate two-finger salute to calorie counting.

Dinner was finished with a crème brulee which was good, but by no way the highlight of the meal.

Like anything that enters into old age with grace and style, and in good nick, L’Escargot is a lucky beast. Let’s hope this old man ends up eligible for a letter from the King.

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